The time is February 1994 and Alison, myself and our children have finally settled into our new accommodation at Morling College in Sydney. As I have mentioned earlier the move from Tamworth was a very traumatic time for me personally.
As college gets under way I found myself being challenged on many fronts as I was forced to face my own inadequacies. The experience that I underwent during the previous six weeks I found to be having a great influence on my ability to cope with all the changes that I was now facing. I can remember that during the first two or three weeks the anxiety was to raise its ugly head time and time again. I felt isolated and alone despite being amidst many people and that the feeling that I had made a mistake in coming to college continued to haunt me.
During our initial orientation I was challenged both spiritually and mentally by what I was to hear and experience. I was faced by people with all sorts of different ideas and beliefs on how the Bible should be interpreted. It was this that caused for me a crisis of faith and was to be the start of a spiritual journey that was to continue throughout the rest my life.
My first year at college was to teach me the value of silence when it comes to voicing one's opinions on matters of theology. I came to realise that it was possible for others to hold differing opinions when it comes to how we interpret certain passages of Scripture. It is a learning process especially in the areas of faith, it became for me one of great inner challenge as I sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit to try and untangle the web of facts that I was continually confronted with. By the end of the first year one quarter of those who had started studying had decided to leave either due to circumstances beyond their control or because they became disillusioned by the critical study of Scripture.
Personally my conviction that I had taken the right steps in following the burden put on my heart to attend college was continually reaffirmed. Gradually the doubts began to dissipate as I realised how much I was being assisted on this journey by the Holy Spirit. I remember one point in particular when I was approached by the principal of the college and asked whether I was comfortable studying at a degree level with my background (it had been 22 years since I attended school). His question was not prompted by anything other than care and concern and I was to find out as time went on that many students in my predicament were forced to withdraw from the degree programme and study at the diploma level due to an inability to retain knowledge at that level.
I informed the principal of the college that I felt that studying at degree level was right for me and that if I started to fail subjects I would happily drop down and study at diploma level.
I was to find a great disparity between my experience with life and the ideas and concepts taught as fact, especially in the realm of personal relationships. I can remember one lecturer telling me to keep my heart in my pocket and another lecturer telling me that I needed to express myself at a personal level. This duality of purpose became one of the main cornerstones of my time at college as I continually struggled with concepts that were outside my sphere of experience.
I was to struggle also with an inbuilt sense of work ethic and found it difficult if not impossible to study at home. The concept of going to work each day and returning home only at night when the work was done was so deeply engraved on my psyche that the only way I was able to master this situation was to reserve a desk in the library and study there. Personally I needed the experience of leaving home and going to the library to study, then returning home only at meal times or at night when I had finally finished the day's work. It was this regime of going to and coming from the library that finally enabled me to settle down into a study pattern.
Likewise at exam time I found it necessary to curtail all other activities except for study. As exams approached each semester I would withdraw to the library for the study week before the exams and remain there except for sleep until the last exam had finished.
When it came to assignments at times I found myself overwhelmed with the amount of material that needed to be covered (studied) to be able to put on paper a cognitive and clear answer. It became imperative for me to start working on assignments as soon as I knew their due date. From the moment I knew when an assignment what due I would prioritise them into an order that was for me achievable. I found it important for my own well-being and to reduce anxiety to have essays and assignments finished long before the due date. I would then let them sit for several weeks only to reread and finalise them several days before handing them in.
In my first year the anxiety that I had experienced gradually dispelled, especially as I became more confident in my ability to cope with my changing world. I had not realised how great a challenge this would be in my preparation leading up to and beginning college. It was only as I became more comfortable and sort out new ways and means of coping that my confidence grew. I will be ever thankful to one man in particular for his assistance during those early months of college when the events of the previous Christmas threatened to destroy all that my wife and I have set out to achieve.
He was a man of deep personal knowledge and conviction and was to act as a counsellor/mentor for me over the next four years. Bill Anderson was an experienced Christian counsellor having had a long career in education, lecturing both at the Baptist College and the Anglican theological college for many years. It was with his help that I was able to unravel the jumbled thoughts and feelings that were at the base of my anxiety. He enable me to put things into a proper prospective and to approach each one on a level which made it possible for me to finally deal with my own foibles and insecurities.
By the end of my first year I was able to pass all my exams and assignments which was for me was a great achievement personally.